GM's Electric Auto Will Need a Leap of Science

Columnist Doron Levin remains skeptical -- as do others -- that lithium ion is ready for use in tomorrow's electric cars.

Published: 20-Jan-2007

> Could the battery-powered electric car be poised for a comeback? General Motors Corp. says a Chevy that plugs into a socket might be three to five years away.

Just about every other automaker says otherwise, noting that major technical hurdles make a plug-in vehicle a distant dream. They say that lithium-ion battery technology is too expensive and unstable to be used in a car.

"Lithium-ion chemistry still has issues for automotive applications," said Don Runkle, a former GM engineer and now chairman of EaglePicher Holdings Inc., which makes small batteries. "Everyone tries to pooh-pooh thermal runaway (overheating), but this is nasty stuff. If it screws up, you have a dead serious fire on your hands."


Allocating significant money to produce a saleable hydrogen fuel cell car is likely to be a tough decision for GM. Larry Burns with image of Sequel fuel cell car behind him.

The dual-mode hybrid system will be available in a wide range of cars, trucks and S.U.V.'s made by the three companies, starting with the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe that goes on sale in fall 2007.

The pollution-free technology holds the potential of zero emissions and a sustainable source of energy produced when hydrogen and oxygen are mixed.


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